When you think about geothermal power you may think of giant installations benefiting from the heat the earth produces; however much smaller geothermal setups exist. These smaller systems are often called geoexchanges since they cycle heat from the ground to the building above or vice versa. Small residential systems can take a long time to recoup the costs of installation and demand for these small systems keeps increasing. Larger installations for condo buildings can see positive returns very quickly due to the sheer quantity of energy those buildings need. The good news here is that more and more condos are looking to this more sustainable source of heating and cooling.
Lloyd Jacobs, general manager of FortisBC Alternative Energy Services, which has installed geothermal systems in dozens of multi-residential buildings in B.C., said there is “a huge demand” for alternative heating systems in large buildings that might have been heated by fossil fuels or baseboard heaters in the past.
Traditionally, a challenge for geothermal energy is the high cost of digging and installing the borefield — that is, the liquid-filled underground loops that store and supply the heating and cooling to the system.
But Martin Luymes, vice-president of government relations for the Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada, said those upfront expenses are now offset by savings from things like lower energy and maintenance costs in as little as three to five years for large buildings.